Panafrican News Agency

Rights advocate accuses DRC president Tshisekedi of reneging on justice pledge

Kinshasa, DRC (PANA) - Human rights advocate Amnesty International has accused President Felix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) of reneging on his inauguration pledges to strengthen the rule of law, fight impunity and ensure justice.

This, it said in a new report on Tuesday titled, "Dismissed! Victims of 2015-2018 brutal crackdowns denied justice in the DRC", had left the families of hundreds of people killed during the country’s pre-election crisis in despair.

President Tshisekedi was sworn in on 24 January 2019 after winning elections, held after a two-year delay, on 30 December 2018. Nine months into his presidency he said he would not “poke into the past”.

Amnesty International said since then he has made "no effort" to ensure investigations are conducted into the deaths of at least 320 people killed during the protests between 2015 and 2018.

“President Tshisekedi and his government must acknowledge the pain that victims and their families have been enduring and publicly commit to promptly and effectively prosecute those responsible,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa.

In the report, Amnesty International said it interviewed 115 survivors and victims’ family members, on their quest for justice. Many expressed frustrations at the authorities’ inertia to investigate and prosecute those responsible, it said. 

“When Felix Tshisekedi was still an opponent, he came and told me, ‘we will always be there for you’. But since he became president, he has given no sign ... Those who killed daddy must be prosecuted and punished,” said 15-year-old Kelly Tshimanga, whose father, Rossy Mukendi Tshimanga was killed by a police bullet to the stomach at the Saint Benoît Catholic church in Kinshasa on 25 February 2018.

Amnesty International said several families told the human rights watchdog that the inaction over complaints lodged for investigation had discouraged them from pursuing justice, while others said they were afraid to seek justice for fear of reprisals. Some regarded justice as a luxury for the rich.

It quoted the mother of another victim killed by Republican Guard soldiers on 19 December 2016 as saying: “The soldiers who shot my son are well known to everyone in the neighbourhood. They have weapons, they can do anything they want. Lodging a complaint against them would be suicide for me and my children. I have already lost a son; I do not want to cause more deaths in my family.”

Under international pressure, former President Joseph Kabila constituted three committees to investigate the deadly crackdowns on protestors, none of which have resulted in any prosecutions.

The first committee established in 2016 investigated violent protests that rocked the country from 19-21 September 2016, resulting in at least 49 people killed, when the electoral commission failed to announce the eagerly awaited elections. Its findings carefully curated buildings destroyed, dismissing dead protestors as looters. It said nothing about the use of lethal force by security forces.

A second committee created in February 2018 investigated the use of deadly force against protestors on 31 December 2017 and 21 January 2018, recommending prosecution of security officers who ordered or used excessive force against protestors.

A third committee constituted in June 2018 to re-investigate protestor killings in September and December 2016, never finished its work. Insiders said security officers blatantly ignored summons, with work eventually stalling when the responsible minister took to the campaign trail.

“The demands of victims and their families for accountability for human rights violations cannot be wished away as inconveniences. President Felix Tshisekedi must acknowledge their suffering and break with past impunity to ensure justice is served,” said Muchena.

-0- PANA MA 17June2020